Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
Republican politicians do not empathize well. "My job is to get mine," Ronald Reagan used to say. "I'm not my country's keeper just because I'm in the White House." A giant of indifference, his party loved him for it.
There's even a kind of Republican, colder than Reagan, who enjoys being rescued from stormy waters, then pulling the ladder up before anyone else can climb it. (If they can contrive to push overboard the person who saved them, so much the better. "Go be a Democrat, you sissy" they yell gleefully. Sometimes they use a different word.)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas benefited hugely from affirmative action in his shocking rise to the top of his profession. At the top, he's a ruthless foe of affirmative action, even when watching his pornographic videos. "Long Dong Silver didn't need affirmative action," he likes to say.
As a young man, Dick Cheney obtained dozens of student deferments to avoid military service in Vietnam. He explained that he had "other priorities" than serving his country in combat. Later, as secretary of defense (we still wonder if the appointment of a draft dodger to lead the Defense Department started as a joke, and then got out of hand) and as vice president, he arranged to send thousands of young Americans off to die unnecessarily. Many of these had other priorities too, presumably, not eager to lay down their lives to make politicians look good. Cheney explained that poor blacks and whites aren't allowed priorities during Republican administrations.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle, now seeking a U.S. Senate seat, is Republican through and through, convinced that American presidents have been too nice to the American people. Last week, he voted against loans for college students in need. He did so, even though he'd taken student loans himself to attend Harvard, of all places, and even though his vote shocked those members of his party only moderately cruel. Pressed for elaboration, he explained that President Obama was at fault.
This was not Cotton's first boldly cruel vote, though perhaps the most boldly hypocritical. He's voted against food stamps, though many of his constituents will go hungry without them. He's voted against health care for those same impoverished constituents.
The modern Republican Party is largely built on hatred. As far back as the adoption of the Southern Strategy, Republicans decided no more Mr. Nice Guys. Mitt Romney said last year that 47 percent of Americans aren't worth killing. Cotton clearly thinks Romney's estimate is too low, and he's more willing than Romney to chastise the unwanted. He could be a Republican star in the making, a great shame to his native state.